The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.e4

The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.E4, Anish Giri, New in Chess / ChessAble, 15th November 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257351
The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.E4, Anish Giri, New in Chess / ChessAble, 15th November 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257351
From the publisher:

“The Dragon Sicilian is the perfect choice for club players searching for chaotic and imbalanced positions. This opening manual shows how Black can turn up the heat against 1.e4, and enjoy dynamic winning chances game after game. Top-10 player Anish Giri is the best tutor to bring this complicated opening across to ‘everyday’ club players. Anish serves up his super-GM lines and clearly explains the ideas and strategies behind the moves. So when game time comes, you know exactly which moves to play, at what moment, and how to deliver the knockout blow. Make no mistake: This repertoire’s take-no-prisoners-strategy means you will sometimes reach razor-sharp positions, where both sides must play ‘only moves’. But that’s why you’ll love having Anish Giri as your opening coach. Giri delivers just the right mix of cutting-edge analysis and practical guidance for players of all levels with his trademark witty and down-to-earth teaching style. The Dragon Sicilian also covers all other major systems Black could face, including what to play against Anti-Sicilians such as the Rossolimo, the 2.c3 Alapin, and the Grand-Prix Attack.”

Anish Giri
Anish Giri

“Anish Giri became a chess Grandmaster at the age of 14 years, 7 months and 2 days. At the time, in 2009, that meant he was the youngest grandmaster in the World. Starting from the January 2013 list, the Dutch grandmaster was the leading junior player in the FIDE World Rankings. In June 2014 he turned twenty, which ended his junior years. Giri is a top-GM with a 2700-plus ELO rating.”

I am impressed with this colourful book, which is an accessible, lucid introduction to the Sicilian Dragon. The repertoire guide is a well- produced hardback book with an attractive vibrant front cover, good quality paper and many large diagrams, typically two per page and sometimes three making the work pleasant to browse and study.

The back cover blurb on the volume states that the opening manual work is aimed as an introduction for everyday club players, and it succeeds admirably in this respect. This title does not purport to be a major theoretical treatise or a “latest developments” style of publication, however, there is some cutting-edge theory and new ideas, some of which are new to the reviewer, who is a life-long Dragon addict.

The reviewer is not going to do a detailed theoretical critique the lines chosen by Giri for several reasons: time;  my knowledge of some of the lines recommended is not sufficiently well-developed yet and thirdly these surveys can often come down to a thicket of engine analysis which can be off putting for less experienced players and does not always enhance understanding: it is important to understand the typical ideas, so when your opponent deviates from the book main lines/engine main lines, you can work out a solution at the board.

Despite my comments above, it is important for any reader of an opening tome, to not blindly follow the lines and take everything as gospel: check with an engine and use other sources.

The book has a short, didactic introduction to the Sicilian Dragon introducing the ideas, and nineteen chapters.

DragonStartingPos
Dragon Starting Position

The book is effectively divided into four sections:

  • Yugoslav Attack main lines (five chapters)
  • Sixth move alternatives; non-Yugoslav Attack (five chapters)
  • Move orders, Accelerated Dragon and Drago(n)Dorf (two chapters)
  • Anti-Sicilians (seven chapters)

Yugoslav Attack Section

The first chapter gives a useful overview of the Yugoslav Attack main line 9.Bc4 variation.

This introductory part briefly surveys the other main systems, other than the recommended repertoire, that occur such as the Chinese Dragon, Soltis Variation, Modern Variation, Topalov Variation. This is a useful pointer for the reader to the myriad of Dragon systems.

Chapter 2 Yugoslav Attack 9.Bc4 Nxd4

This part covers the book’s suggestion against 9.Bc4 which is the rare system 9…Nxd4.

Yugoslav9...Nxd4
Yugoslav9…Nxd4

This system was popular in the late 1950s/early 1960s but fell into disuse after some high-profile white victories, such as Fischer-Larsen Portoroz 1958 and Tal-Portisch European Team Championship 1961.

The idea of the line is to reduce white’s attacking potential by exchanging some pieces. I can see the logic of recommending this line as it is a straightforward system which is not popular, so many white players won’t know how to meet it: white must be accurate to even get a small advantage. The disadvantage is that it could be regarded as passive as black defends a slightly inferior, but defensive ending in the main line.

Black’s move order in this variation is critical as Giri points out: black has just played 12…b5!

Yugoslav12...b5
Yugoslav12…b5

Giri offers a new twist on this ancient line with an intriguing positional pawn sacrifice in a main line, which has been played successfully in a correspondence game. Buy the book to find out.

Chapter 3 Dragon Main Line Konstantinov’s pawn sacrifice sidelines

This chapter covers the sidelines in the main line after 9.0-0-0 d5

White has a fair number of alternatives to the main line of 10.exd5 which are:

  • 10.Bh6
  • 10.h4
  • 10.Nxc6
  • 10.Kb1
  • 10.Qe1

The last two are definitely the most important with Giri covering these with main-line recommendations which are well known and fine for black.

After 10.Kb1 Nxd4 11.e5! Nf5 12.exf6 exf6 13.Bc5 d4! 14.Bxf8 Qxf8, this position is reached:

10Kb1MainLine
10.Kb1 Main Line

Black has sacrificed the exchange for active play: Magnus Carlsen has played this way; a host of games has vindicated black’s approach including Short-Carlsen London 2009 which was drawn after a serious of adventures.

Chapter 4 Dragon main line 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5

This chapter is divided into two sections covering the greedy pawn grab and what is probably the main line of the entire Dragon at top level.

The (in)famous pawn grab leads to this position:

PawnGrab
Pawn Grab Line

This position has been well known since the 1950s, black now plays 13…Qc7! with equality. White has to be accurate to hold on: as a youngster, I won many quick games in this line with black. The author covers this line well with respected well-known variations for black.

The main, main line occurs after 12.Bd4:

MainLine
Main Line 12.Bd4

Here Giri offers the old main line 12…e5 which has been under pressure in recent years. He offers an interesting, rare approach which if it holds up is very important for Dragon theory. Buy the book to find out.

Chapter 5 The early 9.g4

The idea behind this line is to prevent 9…d5 whilst avoiding one of the main lines 9.Bc4. the author recommends the well-rehearsed response 9…Be6 which is fine for black.

The second section of the book, chapters 6 to 10 cover the following variations:

  • Classical 6.Be2
  • Fianchetto System 6.g3
  • Levenfish 6.f4
  • 6.Bc4 system
  • Sixth move sidelines

These lines are perfectly respectable but do not threaten to extinguish the Dragon’s breath. Giri covers these with well-known antidotes. For example, in the Levenfish Variation:

Levenfish
Levenfish

Black has just played 6…Nc6! which neutralises white’s main idea to get in e5 to disrupt black’s development.

The third section has a couple of short chapters on the Accelerated Dragon and the Drago(n)dorf.  These are really supplementary chapters which are interesting but do not detract from the main book.

The fourth section has seven chapters on the Anti-Sicilians and covers over half the book which is excellent. These systems are very popular at all levels particularly at club level with the obvious intention to avoid reams of theory: we have all got stuffed on the white side of the Sicilian facing an opponent bristling with theoretical barbs. This part is divided as follows:

  • The Prins system 5.f3
  • The Hungarian system 4.Qxd4
  • Moscow Variation 3.Bb5+
  • Various 3rd moves
  • Closed Sicilian
  • Alapin 2.c3
  • Other second moves

I particularly like the chapter on the Moscow Variation, which introduced the reviewer to some new lines. As well as that, the author covers some excellent points about the importance of move order in the Maroczy system.

FM Richard Webb

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 27th November 2022

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 248 pages
  • Publisher:ChessAble / New in Chess (27 Sept. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9493257355
  • ISBN-13: 978-9493257351
  • Product Dimensions: ‎17.73 x 1.91 x 23.85 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.E4, Anish Giri, New in Chess / ChessAble, 15th November 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257351
The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.E4, Anish Giri, New in Chess / ChessAble, 15th November 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257351

Minor Pieces 49: Alice Elizabeth Hooke Part 2

Last time we left Alice Elizabeth Hooke in 1914, on the outbreak of the First World War, a member of the London Ladies’ Chess Club and a competitor in the British Ladies’ Championships. She was unmarried, living in Cobham, and working as a Civil Servant for the Post Office Savings Bank near Olympia.

It would have been understandable if she had retired from chess at that point, but in the following decade she made a comeback. And what a comeback it was.

Our first post-war reference is in the 1921 British Championships, where she played in the Second Class A tournament, scoring 4½/11. I presume she wasn’t selected for the British Ladies’ Championship that year. Not having played for some years, and now in her late 50s, perhaps the selectors had good reason.

By 1922 Alice had moved from Cobham to Barnes, much more convenient for her job in Kensington, I suppose. Again, that year’s British Championship saw her competing in the Second Class A tournament, only managing 3/11.

On 27 October 1923 the Cheltenham Chronicle published this position, which, they claimed, won a brilliancy prize in that year’s British Championship. I think they made a mistake: there’s no evidence that Alice played in the British that year, and in any case the subsidiary tournaments were run in a different way. So this game must have been played the previous year, where one of her three wins was against Arthur William Daniel, better known as one of England’s leading problemists of his day. As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.

The pension age for both men and women was reduced from 70 to 65 in 1925, so it’s possible Alice was still working at this point.

Here, from about 1924, is a Ledger Room in Blythe House. I’d imagine Alice was in a more senior role: perhaps, with her undoubted administrative skills, she was supervising the ladies in this picture.

Source: Wikipedia (Blythe House)

Rather unexpectedly, she moved out of London again at about this point, this time up to Abbots Langley, north of Watford: electoral rolls for the period give her address as The Bungalow, Tanners Hill. If she was still working in London this would have been quite a long commute for her.

By 1925 she was back at the British Championships, this time selected for the British Ladies’ Championship for the first time since 1914. Her score of 4½/11 was very similar to her previous scores in the event.

In 1928 Alice Elizabeth Hooke moved back to London, settling at 14 Brandon Mansions, Queens Club Gardens, W14, a mansion flat on the borders of Fulham and West Kensington, a mile or so from Blythe House (was she still working there?) and within easy reach of Hammersmith Bridge, where a bus would take her to visit her beloved brother George, whose wife would sadly die that year.

The British Championships that year took place in Tenby, and she made the journey to Pembrokeshire, where she more than surpassed her previous performances. She’d always finished mid-table in the past, but this time she finished in 3rd place with a score of 7/11 (including a win by default), behind Edith Charlotte Price and Agnes Bradley (Lawson) Stevenson.

This game, against the tournament winner, doesn’t show her in the best light.  Alice chose a dubious plan in the opening and then made a tactical oversight, losing rather horribly.

At this point her chess career really took off. She joined Barnes Village Chess Club and, probably for the first time since the demise of the Ladies’ Chess Club, started playing regularly in club matches. You might have seen this before.

Richmond Herald 15 December 1928

Barnes Village wasn’t the only club she joined. She also, rather improbably, joined Lewisham Chess Club over in South East London, playing for them in the London League and for Metropolitan Kent in a competition against other parts of the county. They had several female members, most notably the aforementioned Agnes Bradley Stevenson, who lived in Clapham and was married to the Kent born organiser Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson: perhaps it was she who encouraged her friends to join Lewisham.

You’ll have seen a photograph of Alice playing Agnes Lawson, as she then was, in the previous article.

In 1929, now very much involved in Kent chess, she took part in their Easter congress, playing in the First Class A section. She also played in the British Ladies’ Championship again, which took place in Ramsgate that year, but found herself back in the middle of the pack, with a score of 5/11.

In June 1930 Alice took part in an event which attracted a lot of press attention: a chess match on a liner.

West Sussex Gazette 05 June 1930

There she was, playing in the same team as Sultan Khan and other notables from various fields, one of thirteen ladies in the 32-player team (Board 32 was Mildred Gibbs). There, you’ll see, was Kate Finn, one of the F squad from the London Ladies’ Chess Club, from whom little had been heard since World War One. Although Agnes Stevenson wasn’t playing, her husband was there on board 13. There’s a lot more to say about this match: I’ll return to it in a later Minor Piece.

British Chess Magazine June 1930, copied from Chess Notes (https://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/sultankhan.html)

You can see Alice seated second from the right in this photograph of the event.

The British Ladies’ Championship in 1930 required a trip to Scarborough, and it was there that Alice Elizabeth Hooke scored what would be one of her greatest successes. She shared first place with Agnes Stevenson with a score of 8½/11. Although she lost the play-off it seemed that, now in her late 60s, Alice was in the form of her life.

Kent & Sussex Courier 11 July 1930

The following month the news wasn’t so good, as Alice was involved in an accident requiring hospital treatment.

Fulham Chronicle 15 August 1930

I can sympathise: Hammersmith Broadway has never been the easiest place to cross the road. Fortunately, she made a full recovery.

In 1931 in Worcester, Alice was less successful at the British Ladies’ Championship, but her score of 6½/11 was very respectable and sufficed for 5th place.

She didn’t have to travel far for the 1932 British Ladies’ Championship, which took place at Whiteley’s department store in Bayswater, which also hosted the Empire Social Chess Club. Perhaps the home advantage helped as she repeated her 1930 success, sharing first place this time with Kingston’s Edith Mary Ann Michell and her old rival Agnes Bradley Stevenson. Her loss to tailender Jeanie Brockett, from Glasgow, who had also beaten her last year, cost her the title.

BritBase reports on the play-off:

The first game, played at the Empire Social Chess Club, Bayswater, London, on Thursday 8 September 1932, was a win for Agnes Stevenson against Edith Michell. Subsequent games had to await the return of Alice Hooke from holiday. Two games were played during the week 19-25 September in which Stevenson and Michell both won games from Hooke and Michell won her return game with Stevenson. Scores at that stage: Michell, Stevenson 2/3, Hooke 0/2. Then according to the Times, 3 October 1932, the following Tuesday (27 September) Michell beat Hooke, but then Hooke won against Stevenson on the Thursday (29 September) making the scores Michell 3/4, Stevenson 2/4 and Hooke 1/4. The text in the Times was as follows: “The match to decide the tie for the British Ladies’ Championship has ended in a win for Mrs. R. P. Michell, who defeated Miss Hooke on Tuesday last. There was a possibility of another tie between Mrs. Michell and Mrs. Stevenson, but Miss Hooke put this out of the question by defeating Mrs. Stevenson on Thursday, and the final scores are:—Mrs. Michell 3 points, Mrs. Stevenson 2, and Miss Hooke 1.”

As she approached her 70th birthday, Alice Elizabeth Hooke seemed finally to have established herself as one of the country’s finest woman players (excluding, of course, Vera Menchik). The results from the pre-war years, where she was consistently in the lower middle reaches, must have been a distant memory. Perhaps the standard of play among the British Ladies had declined, but even so, reaching her peak at this time of her life was undoubtedly a remarkable achievement. In between playing in the tournament, she was also supervising social chess at the Imperial Club, which suggests that, even at that age, she wasn’t short of stamina. Well played, Alice!

It’s unfortunate that very few games from the British Ladies’ Championship in these years have survived: if you come across any of Alice Elizabeth Hooke’s games from these events, do get in touch.

This was to be her last great result, though. Her performances in the three subsequent years saw her back in mid-table positions (4/11 in 1933, 5½/11 in 1934 and 5/11 in 1935), and she also played without success in the First Class A section of the 1933 Folkestone Congress. Perhaps her age was finally catching up with her.

Thanks to Brian Denman for providing this game from a county match where Alice was outplayed by a very strong opponent. The top 20 boards of this match were an official county championship match, for which Mackenzie wasn’t eligible.

Here she is in 1932 playing for Lewisham in the London League with Mrs Stevenson & Miss Andrews against a strong Hampstead team including another of her regular rivals, Edith Martha Holloway. There are some interesting names on both sides, but for now I’ll just draw your attention to the Hampstead Board 7 Thomas Ivor Casswell (1902-1989).  He was still playing for Hampstead in the London League 42 years later: I played him in 1974: the result was a draw. The golden thread that binds us all together.

Hampstead News 24 November 1932

The Imperial Chess Club, which ran between 1911 and the outbreak of World War 2, along with the shorter-lived and similarly named Empire Social Chess Club, in some respects, fulfilled the purpose the Ladies’ Chess Club had served before the First World War. The Imperial was open to ladies and gentlemen for mostly social chess, and was in part designed as a club for visitors from other parts of the British Empire, so it was understandable that Sultan Khan and his patron were members.

Kensington News and West London Times 07 April 1933

You will notice that there were eight ladies in each team of this twenty-board friendly match.

For more information about the Empire Social Chess Club I’d encourage you to read two fascinating articles by Martin Smith here and here.

In this 1934 match against the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington she just missed playing metallurgist Edwin George Sutherland (1894-1968).

Richmond Herald 24 March 1934

This was almost certainly the EG Sutherland I played in a 1966 Thames Valley League match between Richmond & Twickenham C and Kingston B. He beat me after I made a horrendous blunder all too typical of my early games in a better position. To the best of my knowledge, he’s also the earliest born of all my opponents in competitive games, whose dates of birth therefore range from the 19th to the 21st centuries.

There are some interesting names in the Beaumont Cup match between Richmond & Kew and Battersea 2: you’ll meet one or two of them in future Minor Pieces.

By the mid 1930s, and now into her 70s, Alice decided it was time to downsize. A new estate of Art Deco mansion flats, called Chiswick Village, had just been built near Kew Bridge, between the A4 and the Thames, which were smaller – and much cheaper – than those in the rather palatial Queen’s Club Gardens. Looking at them now, they’re still remarkably cheap for the area: I was almost tempted to sell off my chess library and buy one myself.

The Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society tells us here that Chiswick Village is the name of the development of four separate blocks containing 280 flats, built on land that was formerly orchards between Wellesley Road and the railway line. The flats, designed by Charles Evelyn Simmons and financed by the People’s Housing Corporation, were built in 1935-6. When the plans were displayed at the Royal Academy, the development was called Chiswick Court Gardens – a more appropriate name than ‘Chiswick Village’ with its connotations of a rural idyll. The 1937 edition of the official guide to Brentford and Chiswick, described Chiswick Village as ‘undoubtedly London’s most remarkable and praiseworthy housing venture’.

In the 1936 electoral roll she was ensconced in 13 Chiswick Village, one of the first occupants of this new development, and was still there, described as a retired civil servant, in 1939.

Although she was no longer taking part in the British Ladies’ Championship, Alice was still playing regularly for Barnes Village Chess Club, and still travelling to Kent where, in 1938, she lost to 12-year-old prodigy Elaine Saunders in the first round of the County Ladies’ Championship. Elaine was actually living in Twickenham at the time: her only Kent connection seems to be that it was her father’s county of birth.

Barnes Village was the only club in the area keeping its doors open during the Second World War, and Alice was still, in old age, very much involved both as a player and a committee member.

Richmond Herald 23 May 1942

In 1942 she was elected a vice-president at their AGM, while her niece Beatrix was also on the committee. But this would be her last AGM as she died at the end of the year at the age of 80. The BCM, beset by wartime paper shortage, only gave her a six line obituary, mistakenly placing the 1897 Ladies’ International two years later.

British Chess Magazine February 1943

She really deserved better. Alice Elizabeth Hooke played an important part in women’s chess in England for more than forty years, both as a player and as a backroom administrator, from her pioneering work with the Ladies’ Chess Club through to playing club chess into her late 70s. Although she wasn’t all that much more than an average club player herself, she was still good enough to share first place in two British Ladies’ Championships in her late 60s. Reaching your peak at that age is also something to be proud of, I think. As she helped keep Barnes Village club going during the Second World War, you might think that some of her legacy is still present in today’s Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.

Her probate record indicates that since 1939 she’d moved from Chiswick to Barnes, perhaps to be nearer her brother and niece as well as her chess club. I presume 20 Glazbury Road was, at the time, some sort of nursing home or private hospital.

She didn’t leave very much money: she may well have gifted much of it to her relatives to avoid death duties.

The name of Miss Hooke continued to be prominent in Barnes Village chess through George’s daughter Beatrix.

Richmond Herald 14 February 1948

Here she is, in 1948, playing as high as Board 4 in a match against Richmond, who had reconvened after closing during the war. Her opponent, Captain Samuel Ould, had been a Richmond stalwart between the wars, but most of the other Richmond players were relatively new members.

And this is where I come in. I knew George Seaford at what had by that point become Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, in the 1960s, and Ted Fairbrother into the 1970s, though neither very well. Dr JD Solomon (a strong player) and Stan Perry left Richmond but rejoined for a time in the 1970s, the latter serving a term as Hon Treasurer. There were one or two other Richmond members at the time who would still be involved 20 years later. There was also one player in the team whom I never met, but who had an influence on my early chess career. I’ll write about him another time. The golden thread again.

Richmond Herald 07 October 1950

Here Beatrix is again, celebrating Barnes Village winning the Beaumont Cup (Surrey Division 2) for the first time. This was their first, and, as it turned out, their only trophy, as they would eventually be subsumed into Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club. Also in the photograph is young Peter Roger Vivian (1927-1987): I played him at Paignton, also in 1974. Another strand of the thread.

Two of the Barnes Village members had something else to celebrate in 1950: here are Beatrix and her widower clubmate Dr Gerald Hovenden demonstrating how chess can bring people together. At the time of their marriage Beatrix was 57 and Gerald 81.

Richmond Herald 02 September 1950

This tells us she was living in Elm Bank Mansions, right by Barnes Bridge, and working at Cadby Hall near Olympia, just as in the 1939 Register. Perhaps she walked along the riverbank and over Hammersmith Bridge to work, a journey almost identical to that made by her music teacher at St Paul’s Girls School more than 30 years earlier.

This was Gustav Holst, who, at the time, lived in The Terrace, Barnes, just a few yards upstream from Elm Bank Mansions. Always a keen walker, Holst was in the habit of making that journey on foot. Coincidence, or something more?

National Library of Scotland Ordnance Survey Maps

In this map you can see the Post Office Savings Bank in Blythe Road, just opposite Olympia, where Alice spent her career. Cadby Hall, just round the corner, was where Beatrix worked, as a statistician according to the 1939 Register. (As a footnote, in 1926 she co-authored a scientific paper on British skulls in prehistoric times.) Just a few yards again took you to St Paul’s Girls School, marked as St Paul School here, where Gustav Holst taught music to Beatrix and her sisters, while their brother Cyril attended St Paul’s Boys School, just off the map opposite the smaller school on Hammersmith Road. I visited there a couple of times myself in the 1960s for school bridge matches: it was rebuilt in Barnes, the other side of Hammersmith Bridge, a few years later. It’s extraordinary how much of the Hooke family’s lives played out within such a small area of London.

If you continue west along Hammersmith Road, you’ll soon reach Hammersmith Broadway, where Alice was knocked down by a cyclist, and the Underground stations. Continue into King Street and you’ll pass a turning on your right taking you to the London Mind Sports Centre, also the home of Hammersmith Chess Club, and then arrive at Latymer Upper School, a place I used to know very well.

Did Gerald and Beatrix continue playing chess after their marriage? Sadly, the online Richmond Herald records only go up to 1950, so I’d have to get out of my chair to find out. Gerald lived on until 1957, while Beatrix retired to Sussex, where she died in 1974.

That concludes the story of the chess playing Hooke family: George, his sister Alice and his daughter Beatrix. George and Alice were prominent players in earlier decades, but through their work and play at Barnes Village Chess Club for a quarter of a century they had a huge influence on chess in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It’s the likes of them, organisers behind the scenes as well as players, who make the chess world go round. Raise a glass to them next time you visit us at the Adelaide.

 

Supplementary games:

Sources and acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Wikipedia

chessgames.com: Alice’s page here.

Britbase (John Saunders): British Championship links here.

EdoChess (Rod Edwards): Alice’s page here.

chess.com

Streatham & Brixton Chess Club Blog (no longer active)

Google Maps

National Library of Scotland Maps

Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society website

Hooke Family History

Other sources referenced in the text.

Minor Pieces 48: Alice Elizabeth Hooke Part 1

In the last two Minor Pieces (here and here) you met George Archer Hooke. Mention was made of his sister, Alice Elizabeth Hooke, who was also a competitive player: not as strong as her brother, but of more historical significance.

Alice was born on 20 October 1862, and, as expected was living at home in 1871 and 1881, although no occupation is listed for her on the 1881 census. By 1891, still at home, she was, like several of her siblings, working as a clerk (the details aren’t very legible). Presumably she, like George, had learnt chess from her father, but in those days chess clubs weren’t seen as places for women. Some clubs, like Twickenham, specified in their advertisements that they welcomed ‘gentlemen’. No plebs, and no ladies either.

But views on the role of women in society were changing. If men could have chess clubs, why couldn’t women?

The Queen 19 January 1895

Well, it certainly wasn’t the first Ladies’ Chess Club in England, and portrait painter Edith Mary Burrell (1858-1906) wasn’t all that young either, but the club, as you’ll see, would become very popular and successful.They soon found a venue in the Strand opposite Charing Cross Station and, by May, were playing their first match.

Sheffield Evening Telegraph 24 May 1895

Alice, a keen social chess player, had wasted no time in joining, playing top board in this match. As you’ll see, the gentlemen of the Metropolitan club, as well as giving knight odds, were only their third team players, which suggests that most of the ladies were, at this point, not very strong players.

Penny Illustrated Paper 01 June 1895

The following month their first Annual General Meeting took place. Miss Alice Elizabeth Hooke was elected Hon Secretary and Treasurer.

Barnet Press 22 June 1895

Most importantly, Mrs Rhoda Bowles was elected match captain and tournament secretary. All chess clubs are only as good as their organisers, and, in Rhoda Bowles, they had an organiser and publicist of exceptional energy and talent, with, I’d imagine, Alice Hooke doing the backroom work with considerable efficiency.

The club continued to thrive, offering a bewildering whirl of activities: internal tournaments, simultaneous displays, including one from Harry Nelson Pillsbury, fresh from his success at Hastings, and matches against other clubs. By October, with their membership having grown to 75, they found more commodious premises in Great Russell Street, close to the British Museum.

Morning Post 21 October 1895

Lady Thomas was the mother of the future Sir George Thomas, and herself a strong player. Alice had been relegated from top board to board 9 by now, partly because of an influx of strong new members. The four players on the middle boards, all, coincidentally, with surnames beginning with F, would go on to play important roles in the Ladies’ Chess Club over the next few years. For the remarkable Louisa Matilda Fagan, I’ll refer you to Martin Smith’s articles referenced below. I hope to write about Gertrude Alison Beatrice Field, Rita Fox and Kate Belinda Finn at some point in the future.

Within a few months they were up to 100 members. Pillsbury visited again and Lasker looked in whenever he was in town.

In 1896 the Ladies’ Chess Club entered the London League as well as continuing their programme of internal competitions, friendly matches, such as the one below, against other clubs and simuls, in this case by Herbert Levi Jacobs.

Morning Post 07 December 1896

Here, you see the F-squad in place on the top four boards, with the Belgian Marie Bonnefin on board 5 and Alice on board 6. By now they seem to have established their correct board order. While, for many of their members, the club probably served a social function, their strongest players were intensely competitive.

They had even bigger plans in store for 1897 when, to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, they planned to hold an International Ladies’ Chess Tournament at the Hotel Cecil in London.

The strongest lady players from around the world were invited, and, naturally enough, these included several of their club members. Alice Elizabeth Hooke was originally a reserve, but when one of the American invitees withdrew, she was granted a place in the competition.

I’ll refer you to two excellent articles (links at the foot of this post) which provide much more information. The tournament, just like the club, predictably attracted a lot of interest in the press and several of the games were published. Alice’s score of 10 points (8 wins over the board, 2 by default and 9 losses) was more than respectable for a reserve.

Here’s a photograph of the competitors. Alice, wearing a hat, is standing right at the back against the screen.

In this game against one of the German representatives (her first name is not known, at least to me, but she may well have been related to the organist and composer Carl Müller-Hartung (1834-1908)), her opponent failed to take advantage of an oversight at move 15, after which a poor choice at move 18 allowed Alice to demonstrate some impressive attacking skills. Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up board.

Against her Belgian clubmate Marie Bonnefin, Alice lost a vital central pawn, after which her opponent’s passed pawns enabled her to bring the game to a neat conclusion.

Alice’s game against one of the F-squad, Gertrude Field, had an interesting finish. Gertrude played an enterprising and correct piece sacrifice on move 25, but missed the immediate Nf3 on move 27. Defending in chess is always difficult, and Alice could have stayed in the game by playing 28… Ne7.

Her best result came in round 8, with a win against Louisa Fagan, who eventually finished in second place. Only a short extract is available, but the opening must have been a Centre Game (1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. Qxd4), a favourite of both Alice and her brother George. It’s interesting to note that the two siblings frequently played the same rather unusual openings.

Finally, we have a quick win against Miss Eschwege, who, overlooking that her d-pawn was pinned, blundered a piece and immediately resigned. It’s frustrating that, for many years, the press didn’t see fit to use initials for women. Here, again, we don’t know Alice’s opponent’s first name. Her chess playing father, Hermann, was born in Germany, but lived in London. He had three daughters: Kathleen had married by 1897, but either Ida or Nina would be possible. If you know, do get in touch.

The experience of intensive competitive chess, with two games a day over ten days, must have been an educational experience for Alice and the other lady chess players.

Here’s a game she played the following year, where she crowns a strong attack (she did seem to like castling queenside) with a brilliant rook sacrifice.

Later that year the Ladies’ Chess Club visited Anerley, near Crystal Palace in South East London, for a combined chess and musical programme.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 03 December 1898

Captain Alexander Beaumont’s name lives on in the Beaumont Cup, which has, since 1895-96, been the name of the second division of the Surrey Chess League. Frank Gustavus Naumann would later become the first President of the British Chess Federation before losing his life on the Lusitania. Mrs Anderson, on Board 3 for the ladies, was the former Gertrude Alison Beatrice Field, who had just married Donald Loveridge Anderson.

In January 1899 their 4th birthday party’s guests included Lasker, Gunsberg, and, appropriately enough, Antony Guest. As the 20th century approached there was no stopping the Ladies’ programme of matches and social events.

At this time we can find Alice in the 1901 census, living at 27 Croxted Road, Herne Hill with her widowed mother Harriett, and working as a clerk in the General Post Office. This was just 2.3 miles up the A2199 from Anerley Village Hall, and close to Dulwich College School.

At Whitsun that year Alice, along with her clubmates Louisa Matilda Fagan, Kate Finn and Rita Fox, took part in the open section of the Kent County Chess Association Tournament. I haven’t been able to find the full results, but Miss Finn did well to finish in second place.

In 1902 she visited Norwich for the British Amateur Championship, playing in the 3rd Class section along with the Misses Foster and Oakley from the Ladies’ Chess Club (and my favourite chess playing clergyman, Rev W E Evill). Miss Finn, Mrs Anderson and a new member of the Ladies’ Chess Club, Mrs Frances Dunn Herring (née Gwilliam) took part in the 2nd Class section.

In 1903 Alice played in the Kent congress in Canterbury, playing in Section A of the ‘Extra’ (2nd Class) section and sharing 2nd place with a score of 4½/7.

The British Chess Championships took place for the first time in 1904, and from the start, the top places in the British Ladies’ Championship were usually taken by members of the Ladies’ Chess Club. Alice Elizabeth Hooke took part for the first time in Shrewsbury in 1906, winning five games and losing six.

In this game against Scotland’s Agnes Margaret Crum, she lost quickly using the Dutch Defence, an opening also favoured by her brother George.

She was back again in Crystal Palace (she wouldn’t have had far to travel) the following year, with a similar result: four wins, one draw and six losses. She was, at this point, and by now in her mid 40s, some way below the best lady players in the country.

Here she is, pictured in the Daily Mirror, on the left in the lower photograph. Her opponent ‘s name was Agnes Lawson, not Lawrence.

Daily Mirror 14 August 1907

By 1909, Alice had joined a new club, the Imperial Colonial Club, whose chess players seemed mostly to be connected with the Ladies’ Chess Club. There will be a lot more to say about this club in future Minor Pieces.

Field 27 March 1909

I’m not sure why boards 7 and 8 were reported as a loss for both players.

In July, the Imperial Review (perhaps connected with the Imperial and Colonial Club) published a feature on Alice Elizabeth Hooke, with the information that she’d won the Ladies’ Chess Club for the third year in succession, thus acquiring the cup in perpetuity (I wonder what happened to it) but had had to relinquish her post as secretary for health reasons. We also have a rather fine photograph.

From the Hooke Family Archives

Here’s the game for you to play through: you’ll notice the opening variation is the same as that from Alice’s game against Miss Eschwege from 12 years earlier.

Although the Ladies’ Chess Club was still growing, its activities were receiving less publicity in the press. Perhaps the novelty had worn off. It seems that Alice Hooke was less active at this time, perhaps partly because of ill health, and partly because she was having to care for her increasingly frail elderly mother.

By the 1911 census Harriett and Alice had moved to 12 Eatonville Road, Upper Tooting, just a 12 minute walk from Alice’s brother George’s rather more substantial house in Drakefield Road. Alice was now described as a Clerk in the Civil Service.

Harriett died in December 1912, but it wouldn’t be until 1914 that Alice resumed her chess career.

The British Championships took place in Chester that year, and Alice Elizabeth Hooke was back in the Ladies’ Championship, but without much success, winning four games and losing seven.

One game is available, but it doesn’t show her in a good light. She seemed unfamiliar with her opponent’s sharp opening variation, and, after only six moves, had a very bad position. Mrs Holloway was able to offer a bishop sacrifice for a swift victory.

By now she had moved out of London, to Cobham, near Esher in Surrey. Electoral rolls give her address as White Lodge, Cobham. There are two houses of that name in Cobham, about a mile apart. I’d guess it was more likely to be this one than this one. As it was just her and a servant, the smaller and more centrally located property would have been more than adequate. Neither was close to the station, so I wonder how she travelled to work. Jumping ahead for the moment, she was still there in 1921, working as a civil servant in the Post Office Savings Bank in West Kensington.

But then, of course, World War 1 broke out, and, like many others, the Ladies’ Chess Club decided to close its doors for the duration.

As you probably already know from her brother George’s story, this was not the end of Alice Elizabeth Hooke’s chess career. You’ll find out what happened subsequently in the next Minor Piece.

But meanwhile, if you’re interested, there’s a lot more reading material for you.

There’s a lot of information about the Ladies’ Chess Club and the 1897 tournament available in various online sources.

The excellent Batgirl (Sarah Beth Cohen) has written a number of articles on the Ladies’ Chess Club on chess.com.

The Ladies’ Chess Club: The First Year

The Ladies’ Chess Club: Early Years

The Ladies’ Chess Club: Middle Years

Rhoda Bowles: Part 1

Rhoda Bowles: Part 2

Louisa Matilda Fagan

The 1897 Ladies’ Tournament

An article by Rhoda Bowles

See here for a full list of her articles on women’s chess.

 

My good friend Martin Smith has written a wonderful series of articles about Louisa Matilda Fagan. You can read the first of the series here: there are links to the subsequent articles at the end.

 

There’s a well-researched article by Joost van Winsen concerning the 1897 Ladies’ Chess Tournament on the Chess Archaeology website here.

Another informative article on the same event by Tim Harding can be found on the Chess Café website here.

 

Sources and acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

chessgames.com: Alice’s page here.

Britbase (John Saunders): British Championship links here.

EdoChess (Rod Edwards): Alice’s page here.

chess.com

Justin Horton’s blog (no longer active)

Chess Archaeology

Google Maps

Hooke Family History

ChessBase/MegaBase 2022/Stockfish 15